It’s nice to know that hvacr contractors are responding toThe News’first-ever “Best Contractor To Work For” contest. By all means, keep those entries coming.

Remember, you can’t win if you do not fill out the questionnaire on page 13. You can also go to our Web site,, and complete the questionnaire online. It’s quick and easy. Just remember that the entry deadline is Dec. 31, 1999.

In truth, I was somewhat fearful that contractors — ever-so humble (and busy) — would not take the time to record what they are doing right as an employer. It’s good to know, though, that there are some good and smart contractors (if you catch my drift).

Yes, this is the time to strut your stuff. Don’t be bashful. And as far as The News is concerned, the more entries, the merrier.

In addition to honoring deserving contractors, there’s another reason for this contest. We want to expose what the good contractors are doing to secure a friendly, secure, steady work environment, one that offers technicians the opportunities to grow. And we want to pass along these successful tips and hints to our contractor-subscribers.

The top 'worry'

After all, finding and retaining employees and/or technicians continues to top your “worry list.” It is obvious, based onThe News’recent reader feedback study.

Our initial question to subscriber-contractors was, “What are your business’s challenges and/or problems?” The verbatim replies included:

  • “Finding qualified employees.”
  • “Finding new, trained employees.”
  • “Finding qualified service technicians.”
  • “Finding competent technicians.”
  • “People — as we continue to expand, the available pool of trained people continues to shrink.”

Hmm. No matter how you slice it, these various replies say the same thing.

“It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier,” wrote one contractor. “It seems like no matter how hard you try to keep qualified techs, they are constantly looking elsewhere for a bigger paycheck.”

And “qualified” may not be the key search word, either.

“Just because they are qualified, licensed, etc., does not in any way make them good employees,” warned Canadian reader Brian Baker of Custom Vac Ltd. (Winnipeg, MB, Canada). “I do have technicians wanting to work here but I would not hire them based solely on qualifications. We hire by attitude and other factors.

“Yes, we need technicians, but in a tight labor shortage, offering benefits to low-skilled technicians who happen to carry a qualification or license may work for my competitor, but not for me. I’ll wait and get the repair work and pick up the pieces.”

Good information

It’s not an accident, then, that we placed one of the toughest questions at the beginning of our “Best Contractor To Work For” contest entry form. Without revealing names, below are just some of the interesting answers (and suggestions) submitted to date to the initial question, “Given the shortage of techs, what have you done to hire and retain them?”

  • “I started a four, 10-hour-day week, giving each man a three-day weekend.”
  • “I enhanced training and provide better-than-average pay and benefits.”
  • “I have an apprenticeship program. Apprentices ride with a master tech every day. Both have specific functions and goals for personal growth.”
  • “We offer a ‘finder’s fee’ to any employee who finds a qualified individual we hire. The ‘finder’ gets 25% on hiring the prospective individual and the remaining 75% when the hire becomes a permanent employee, meaning after the probationary period. This tactic really gets our employees thinking and looking past coworkers and contacts. ”
  • “We have come to the conclusion that we must grow our own service technicians by employing those with some mechanical abilities. We must then take those individuals, provide proper training from the company, manufacturer, and/or college service school on a regular basis. This, coupled with an aggressive on-the-job training and a weekly sustainment program, will develop competent people who are able to understand and meet our objectives.”

Do you have a better way? Let us know.